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Alumnus Jonathan T.M. Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, will discuss how to find one’s passion on Thursday (Oct. 11) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Eve Marie Carson Memorial Speaker Series will bring Reckford, who graduated from Carolina with a political science degree in 1984, back to campus for the 2012-2013 Hillard Gold ’39 Lecture. The free, public event will be held at 7 p.m. at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

Reckford began his career on Wall Street but soon decided it was not a good fit. In 1986, he was awarded the Henry Luce Scholarship, which provided the opportunity to live and work for a year in Asia. He worked in marketing for the Olympic Organizing Committee, preparing for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. A former competitive rower, he was asked to coach the Korean national rowing team. After the Olympics and an eye-opening, three-month journey through Southeast Asia, Reckford returned to the United States and began work on his MBA degree at Stanford University. While there, a professor’s words struck home with him: “The same skills that will make you a success in the for-profit world also are desperately needed in the not-for-profit world.”

Always active in his local faith community, Reckford found an avocation helping to coach pastors in dealing with the management side of church life. In 2003, that volunteer service turned into full-time ministry as executive pastor of a 4,300-member church in Edina, Minn.

As much as he enjoyed that work, “God has this way of showing up at unexpected times with surprises,” he says. This time, the surprise was a call informing him of Habitat’s search for a CEO. A longtime admirer of Habitat’s work, Reckford believed the organization was a good fit with his personal faith and values, and he felt that his business career had honed the skills needed to lead a nonprofit with excellence.

Today, Reckford leads an ecumenical Christian housing ministry that has helped shelter more than 2.5 million people in more than 100 countries.

The Hillard Gold lecture series is hosted by Honors Carolina and the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences. It honors alumnus Hillard Gold and is made possible by a gift from James Gold, a 1972 graduate, and Dr. Jonathan Gold, a 1975 graduate, in honor of their late father.

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Published October 9, 2012.